Mosul offensive enters second week as mosque airstike probed

Iraqi forces gather in the al-Shura area, south of Mosul, during an operation to retake the main hub city from IS. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
Iraqi forces gather in the al-Shura area, south of Mosul, during an operation to retake the main hub city from IS. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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Iraqi forces have fought their way into two villages near Mosul as the offensive to retake the extremist-held city entered its second week.

Meanwhile, a rights group has called for a probe into a suspected air strike which hit a mosque on Friday, killing more than a dozen civilians.

Iraqi special forces began shelling Islamic State positions before dawn near Bartella, a Christian town to the east of Mosul which they had retaken last week.

With patriotic music blaring from loudspeakers on their Humvees, they then pushed into the village of Tob Zawa, about five miles from Mosul, amid heavy clashes.

The Iraqi Federal Police, a military-style force, pushed into a small village in the Shura district south of Mosul, where they fired a large anti-aircraft gun and rocket-propelled grenades as they battled IS militants.

They later appeared to have secured the village, a cluster of squat homes on a desert plain, and handed out water and other aid to civilians.

The US-led coalition said it had carried out six air strikes near Mosul, destroying 19 fighting positions and 17 vehicles, as well as rocket and mortar launchers, artillery and tunnels.

Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation into last week’s purported air strike in northern Iraq which struck the women’s section of a Shia mosque in the town of Daquq.

The strike happened amid a large IS assault on the nearby city of Kirkuk which was meant to distract the Iraqi forces and their allies from the massive operation around Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

The IS attack on Kirkuk, about 100 miles south-east of Mosul, lasted for two days and killed at least 80 people, mainly members of the Kurdish security forces, who assumed control of the city in 2014 as Iraqi forces crumbled before an IS advance.

Daquq’s residents believe Friday’s attack was an air strike because of the extent of the destruction and because planes could be heard flying overhead. The US-led coalition and the Iraqi military, which are waging the offensive to drive IS from Mosul, are the only parties known to be flying military aircraft over Iraq.

The militants captured Mosul in 2014, when they swept across much of north west Iraq. IS has suffered a series of setbacks over the past year, and Mosul is its last major urban bastion in Iraq.